FORGET THE well-manicured grass at Wimbledon; the Stusser squad plays at Lincoln Park, a cracked, moss-covered public court we like to call Wormbledon (the toasty concrete surface and constant rain attract worms by the grubload). It is here that Northwest tennis hackers bring out their worst T-shirts, flannel socks, badly thrashed tennies, and wooden racquets in order to smack a mustard-colored ball every which way (releasing cobwebs of wintered-over aggression and rusty hinges in the process). More importantly, it enables us to get much needed exercise without having to screw with the Stairbastard, racklike rowing machines or, worst of all, the dreaded running track.
Now that summer has sprung, amateurs of every ilk have begun gingerly limping to outdoor tennis courts all over the region, thwacking balls into neighboring yards, rooftops, parked cars, and innocent bystanders. Unwilling to pay the big bucks 10 months out of the year for indoor facilities or club memberships, when the weather finally permits we hacks are inconsistent at best—a serious liability to the City's Park and Rec Department, not to mention ourselves. Nevertheless we migrate to the sport, unafraid to look and act the awkward whiffers we truly are. Like rare butterflies cocooned for most of the year, the sun allows us to finally take wing, bringing the swarm to a nearby net, where we should probably be captured, pressed, and put under glass for future generations to gawk at.
This tariff-free existence does take its toll—after all, the best things in life aren't free. Courtside worms are the best of the public lot: Cracked pavement allows dandelions to sprout and ankles to sprain; nets are tattered if you're lucky, sagged to the ground if you're not. Playing surfaces are covered with leaves, tree sap, pollen, dead crows, and the occasional heroin needle (stay clear of the Delridge courts). Packs of stray dogs run off with stray volleys. And forget about functioning water fountains—if you want water, you'll have to play near it (Luther Burbank, Lowman Beach Park, Volunteer Park).
AS FOR THE CLIENTELE at these communal facilities, the best that can be said is that we're a diverse bunch. Where else can you find young, cap-assed backward, profanity-spewing punks playing side-by-side with blue-haired doubles, hacky-sacking hippies, and profanity-spewing real estate agents? Still, for public purists, these minor tradeoffs are well worth the gig. It's the reason we don't play golf, squash, or polo—if we did, we couldn't make fun of the overdressed snobs who pay for their pleasure. If I want to spend cash on recreational activities, I'll visit the pharmacist.
Ultimately, the biggest hassle of any public tennis outing is the possibility of having to wait in line for a court. Like the worldwide population itself, there are simply more plebes than available resources (Paul Schell is also to blame for this debacle). Civic-seasoned veterans, however, are prepared for long layovers, rain delays, even waiting out summer camps and weekend tournaments. We understand that playing the waiting game is part of the game. Preparation means focus, endurance, and the proper equipment. And this is one sporting challenge Team Stusser has trained for endlessly. An hour and a half wait to get on a court, you say? No problem. Dad's brought the cooler, I'm toting the Sunday funnies (which can alternately be used as a rain tarp), and sister Pammy has plenty of sunblock and Brie.
Like many sports buffs, we've learned from watching the best. About this time last year, an elderly foursome of regulars at Lincoln Park actually had the balls to bring a hibachi onto the court. A flaming hibachi! It was such an impressive show, in fact, no one had the guts to kick them off even after their two-set maximum had long expired. After all, they were handing out shish kabobs. So take your shirt off and stay a while. We're serving 'em up with the best of them. Martini, anyone?
Begin your summer courtship today! Here's a mere 25 tennis courts, brought to you (in alphabetical order) by the nice folks at Seattle Parks and Recreation. For a complete list, see www.cityofseattle.net/parks/Athletics/tennis. To schedule a court, call the Citywide Athletics Office, 684-4077.
Ballard Pool Grounds, 1471 NW 67th
Beacon Hill Playground, 1902 13th S
Bobby Morris Playfield, 1635 11th
Bryant Playground, 4102 NE 65th
Cowen Park, 5849 15th NE
David Rogers Park, 2800 First W
Discovery Park Grounds, 3801 W Government Wy
Garfield Playground, 23rd E and E Cherry
Gilman Playground, 923 NW 54th
Green Lake Park, 7201 E Green Lake Dr N
Jefferson Park, 4165 16th S (with lights!)
Kinnear Park, 899 W Olympic Pl
Leschi Park, 201 Lakeside S
Laurelhurst Playfield, 4544 NE 41st (with lights!)
Lincoln Park, 8011 Fauntleroy Wy SW
Lower Woodland Playfield, 5851 W Green Lake Wy N (with lights!)
Madison Park, 2300 43rd E (with lights!)
Madrona Park, 853 Lake Washington Blvd (with lights!)
Miller Playfield, 400 19th E (with lights!)
Montlake Playfield, 1618 E Calhoun
Mount Baker Park, 2521 Lake Park Dr S (with lights!)
Ravenna Park, 5520 Ravenna NE
University Playground, Ninth NE and NE 50th
Volunteer Park, 1247 15th E (with lights!)
Wallingford Playfield, 4219 Wallingford N